Tabor Academy soon will present the popular musical How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying! A cast and crew of over 45 students have teamed up this winter to bring this Pulitzer Prize-winning musical to life.
The story focuses on a clever young window washer named J. Pierpont Finch, who uses a handy how-to manual that explains the steps for guaranteed career advancement with the least amount of effort required. Armed with his book and quick wits, Finch infiltrates the World Wide Wicket Company via the mailroom and begins is ascent up the corporate ladder.
But like with any good journey, the road is paved with dangers
and temptations. Ponty must brave the slimy schemes of Bud Frump, the conniving and unqualified nephew of the CEO of WWWC, who will stop at nothing to prevent Finch’s rise to the top. He also crosses paths with a beautiful and charming office worker, Rosemary Pilkington, who is greatly concerned that Ponty will be consumed alive by the corporate beast, while simultaneously falling in love with him (Spoiler alert: that feeling is mutual).
It is only when Finch meets the company’s overblown, imperious CEO, J.B. Biggley that he realizes he is in a make-it-or-break-it game of wits and guts. And that’s only the first act.
At the Tuesday night dress rehearsal, the cast and crew were equal parts anxious and eager. Two hours before the rehearsal was scheduled to begin, the actors were busying themselves with their preparations.
The dressing room, strewn with wigs on Styrofoam heads and make-up sponges, was humming with a certain kind of nervous confidence that is as exhilarating as it is frightening. Opening night may be in two days, but everybody was wearing their game faces.
30 minutes before the rehearsal began, the lighting techs were practicing cues, the pit orchestra was reviewing notes, and a girl in a blue, white, and red flowered dress quietly practiced some choreography on stage.
It’s clear by their enthusiasm and professionalism that these students truly love live theater and the challenges that come with it. Senior Cal Heavey, who plays sleazebag Bud Frump, said one of the hardest aspects of his job was to play a character he feels is quite different from his real personality.
“As obnoxious as Bud is, I think he’s still a very conservative sort of person, and I’m not. He has a habit of trying to be proper even when he’s not doing it right.”
For all the difficulty in playing the character, he said it has been very enjoyable.
“Bud is fun because he’s obnoxious and wants to be the center of attention all the time. I get a chance to bring out all my bad qualities and it’s fun,” he said.
The machine that is live theater does not work without all hands on deck. While the actors are the most visibly prominent people involved, the folks behind the scenes – from the student who opens and closes the curtains to the team that built the sets and designed the lighting – are responsible for pushing the show forward.
This year, the set team was comprised almost entirely of female students, a first for the drama club. Susan Kistler, the assistant set designer, said it was an empowering experience for the young women.
“It’s a great thing. Having almost all girls helped them be more self-sufficient because they are responsible for all the set construction,” she said.
Mara Mascolo, a junior on the team, is very proud of the work they all put in. “Knowing that we built everything up there is really cool,” she said. And the “Techie Dance Parties” are rumored to be a lot of fun, too.
How To Succeed is a daunting show, running almost three hours with one intermission. Meghan Grant, a sophomore who plays a secretary in the office, said it has been hectic, but an enjoyable experience.
“I only have four lines, but I love it. Everyone is so friendly. By the end, everyone is more like a big family,” she said.
John Heavey, the production’s director, wouldn’t have it any other way. “The most difficult aspect of this show is probably the length. You just got to move it along and the kids do really well with that. It’s tough because it’s a work of satire, so they always have to play everything really big,” he said.
He chose this show because of the timeless nature of the music and lyrics. “I hope they [the students] gain an appreciation for one of the great classic shows of American theater of the last 50 or 60 years,” he said.
Oliver Palmer, who plays Finch, is featured in all but two of the scenes of this behemoth of a musical. He said that taking the show bit by bit over the last few months was the best way to attack his character.
“One of the biggest things that can help you is endurance. You have to be going the whole time. Finch is a really energetic character and it’s tough to keep it up,” he said.
By Eric Tripoli